Thursday, August 2, 2012

From the Trenches: Master of Perseverance

Sometimes, the dream of becoming a published author feels like a silly fantasy. Repeat rejection letters have a way of taking their toll, and everybody's got their limits. Well, maybe not everybody. One author you've definitely heard of was rejected 800 times before selling any of his writings. Today, his books are among the most popular fiction ever written. 

Clive Staples Lewis, more commonly known as C. S. Lewis, lived in a world of words. He was on the faculty at Oxford University's English Department and belonged in a literary group called the Inklings (cute, right?). Whether he was working or socializing, words were everywhere. One of Lewis's closest friends was J. R. R. Tolkein, who famously wrote the Lord of the Rings books. 

No, Thank You

C. S. Lewis also wanted to be an author. He began writing while working at the University, but every manuscript he sent to editors came back with a rejection the hundreds. Lewis didn't publish his first book until 1933, a novel about his own very personal spiritual journey. Academic books followed, and in private Lewis started writing the first of his Narnian books in 1939. 

He wouldn't finish it for ten years. When The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950, C. S. Lewis was still getting rejected. His good friend J. R. R. Tolkien criticized Lewis and the book itself -- he thought it was too busy, with too many elements that clashed.

But C. S. Lewis was a veteran in the rejection department. Critics didn't fall in love with the book, either, so he went ahead and wrote 6 more of them. The readers loved the books, and word of mouth began to spread them all over the world. Today, more than 100 million copies of the Narnia books have been sold. 

C. S. Lewis wrote in the writing trenches even when he was drowning in rejection letters and criticism. He persevered, despite what the critics and even his friends had to say about it. For him, the idea of being a famous author wasn't a silly little fantasy...but he had to go through a lot of letters before it came true.

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  1. Thank you. We all need encouragement especially when we (writers) are struggling to learn the craft of writing and getting rejections notices.